How to know when it’s time to go

Has your career reached an impasse…. is it time to make a change?  5 sure-fire indicators that it’s time to go.

  1. You are no longer learning or developing new skills.

Think back to when you started your current job and the excitement of the initial learning and the subsequent development of the skills that allowed you to excel in the role. Too often companies are reticent to move someone out of a job that they are doing really well because of the gap that it will create and the investment they will need to make in getting someone else up to speed.  Your career progression should not be stalled because you are doing the job well. If you know that you are capable of more and are not getting the opportunity in your current company, it is time to look elsewhere. New growth and satisfaction can come from applying your developed skill set to a new industry as well as from moving into an entirely different position.

  1. You are no longer challenged – there is no “stretch” in your role.shutterstock_149394278

One of the most satisfying things in working is to have a goal that is somewhat outside of your comfort zone and achieving it. An ambitious business person is much like an athlete, constantly looking to overcome the next test or challenge – it’s where you get your rush! If your job has become mind numbingly routine and your company does not provide the opportunity to work on some meaningful and challenging projects – it’s time to look for new challenges elsewhere.

When interviewing with other companies, asking about the opportunity to work on projects outside of the scope of the specific job should be a part of the discussion and your decision to join them. If working there would be just as limiting, you likely will not be happy there for long.

  1. You feel that you are not compensated at the appropriate level.

Here you have to do your homework and get a real pulse on what similar roles are paying in other companies and industries. Compensation and growth opportunities for similar roles can be very different. Sometimes this is impacted by the value of the role within a given company or industry. For example a Director of Digital Marketing role with an accounting firm may not pay as well as it does in a digital marketing firm, where it is their core business.

A great way to keep on top of compensation levels is to have ongoing interaction with recruiters – even when you are not in the market for a job. By responding to recruiter calls you are not only building a relationship for the future, you are getting a read of what the market is paying for your skills. Once you have a relatively good fix on the going rates and can confirm that you are not adequately compensated, it’s time to make your move.

  1. The company, industry, or your life has changed, and no longer meets your needs.

A significant drop in an industry is a pretty direct reason to make a change but sometimes you can also just lose your passion for an industry as well. A more subtle reason though can come with the shifting culture of the company no longer being a good fit for you. This could be influenced by senior management changes, too fast or too slow growth, more intense competition revealing the ugly underbelly of the company, and many other factors. Whatever the reason for the cultural shift, if you don’t feel you fit in any longer, it’s time to go. Similarly, if you find that your company is completely inflexible when your life changes, with family needs added to your responsibilities, and consistently expects you to put your job before all personal and family commitments, it’s time to find a more adaptive work environment.

  1. You are approached with a better offer/opportunity

Chances are that if you are a professional doing a great job, someone will notice. Sometimes the ones to take notice are not your current employer. Although you were not looking for a new opportunity, it begs the question – why hasn’t your company taken appropriate notice and rewarded your contribution? You like the job on offer and see future potential with the suitor company. Unless there are some other really compelling factors that would keep you at the current company, it is in your best interest to take the offer and advance your career.



The Benefit of Boutique Firms

IRC 2013IRC Annual Conference 2013 – San Francisco

Simply put, boutique firms offer a competitive advantage to their client companies.  Starting with the breadth of companies from which they can recruit from (based on conflict of interest issues at larger firms) and ending with not having to placate stock holders if they are a public company.  It is my belief that client companies want to make sure that their interests are paramount and not have to worry about search firms trying to serve their own shareholders’ needs to the detriment of the client

I’m delighted to join the Top Gun Ventures team,” said Brian Adamik. “What makes this opportunity most exciting is our ability to capitalize on the fact that the current executive search model is broken. Most of the large search firms today are faced with significant client “off-limits” issues, internal battles over account control, and an over-reliance on their databases of names that deliver the same candidates over and over again. Furthermore, given the number of searches that each consultant handles, large search firms today are simply not able to provide the level of client intimacy necessary to understand customer needs, nor the culture of the organizations they serve. The end result of this is that it takes far too long to fill the role and the placement is not always successful.”

“The Top Gun Ventures model is different,” said Adamik. “We conduct fewer searches at any specific time and we make it our business to understand our client, their culture, and the goals of the position we are recruiting for. We focus on conducting original research on every search we carry out which yields candidates who are top performing executives not actively looking for their next leadership position. Further, we have virtually no off-limits issues; our partners manage all aspects of the search including research, prospect calling, and candidate development; and our precision recruiting techniques allow us to attract the right executive the first time. In fact, we provide a 100% guarantee that our recruited candidate will achieve the strategic goals for which they were hired.”

The executive search industry can be divided into two camps.  On one extreme are a handful of mega-firms, some of them publicly-held, with big brand names and revenues in excess of $500M per year.  These large firms typically cater to Fortune 500 clientele. You may think it sounds prestigious to say “we’re using a big name firm”, but unless you’re a Fortune 500 company, your search can get very expensive, lost in the shuffle, and they will ultimately recruit from you after their hands-off time has expired.

On the other are a multitude of boutiques, most of which specialize by industry and/or function. We believe strongly that most client companies get better results by partnering with the right boutique.  Here’s why:

Is What You See, What You Get?

When you engage a boutique, you are dealing directly with the person who will work on your project.  In contrast, at big search firms, the search may be directed by a “Partner” but in fact a significant amount of the work is done by less tenured associates…people you have never met, and who have minimal knowledge of your company, your business challenges, and your goals. The results? Candidates who match the letter — not the spirit — of the job description; mis-hires who don’t fit your corporate culture; and poor performance down the road.

Access to More Candidates

Executive search firms have an ethical (and usually contractual) obligation not to recruit from clients.  Big search firms have significant off-limits constraints, which limits the pool of candidates while boutiques can access more candidates because they have fewer off-limits companies.   In addition, a little known fact is that candidates that are active on a search within a firm are also off-limits for any other search projects.  Large firms can have literally thousands of active candidates throughout the firm at any one time…all who are unavailable for your search!

Smaller Work Load

A typical search firm partner may conduct 15 to 20 assignments simultaneously, overwhelming their associates and research staff. They operate in a “book ‘em, bill ‘em & forget ‘em” environment. Unless your search is carrying the highest fees or is relatively easy to complete, it may be shunted to the bottom of the heap.  In contrast, boutiques typically work on fewer projects, devoting far more time and attention to each one.

Higher Completion Rates

Boutiques have higher completion rates than big firms.  Completion rates at big search firms are well-known to be in the 60% to 65% range.

In-Depth Knowledge of Your Company

Because boutiques have a business model that enables them to form a genuine partnership with you, they are usually better at selling your opportunity and assessing candidates. Combining its access to talent with its proven Performance Based Assessment SM methodology,

Exactly What is Their Process?

Many search firms operate on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis, convincing companies that the search process is mysterious and incomprehensible. The reality is, most big firm partners cannot explain their process, nor do they adhere to a proven methodology.

Big Fish…Small Pond

If your company plans to do more than ten searches a year, you may have enough leverage to get the attention you deserve from the big search firms.  But if your needs for search are more focused, you will get far more personalized and attentive service from a boutique.

In summary

Bigger is not better in executive search.  In fact, big search firms face significant obstacles to client service.  Large scale makes it easier for search firms to build their brands, but does not provide value to clients.

It’s important to remember that search firms are service providers. When evaluating vendors, look past the false allure of name brands and critically evaluate the quality of service you will receive. Determine the firm’s commitment to your company, assess its process yourself whether this search firm is passionate about serving your company’s needs and providing what you and your company want.

How to turn off a headhunted candidate

In the last while I’ve had some interesting feedback from candidates after their first, second, third (or in some cases sixth or seventh) interview with a prospective new employer…..along with a bit of a moan from them about ‘stuff’.

The ‘stuff’ includes such petrifying experiences as being kept waiting in the reception area before being seated in a meeting room – headhunted candidates are usually VERY concerned about confidentiality, as they should be, and it is potentially career limiting to be seen by someone you know in the lobby. Try as you will, there is no mistaking the pre-interview ‘aura’ – any alert person can pick this up – and so paranoia about waiting out in the open is a pretty valid emotion!

shutterstock_122625739Being kept waiting beyond the appointed interview time is one of the biggest pet peeves of headhunted candidates. They are business people that made the effort to be there on time and keeping them waiting sends the signal that your time is more important than theirs. And even more irritating is being blasé about having kept them waiting.

Then, there is the ‘read the CV’ grumble! By the time the headhunted candidate is on to their second or third interview with (usually) various individuals from the executive team, he/she has an expectation that a) they will have read their CV, and b) they will have conferred amongst themselves regarding which questions have been asked and answered so that the same slew of questions and answers are not repeated in each meeting. A pretty reasonable expectation, one would think?

Another little aggravation is the inevitable interview question ‘So why do you want to leave your current company?’. This particular question may seem completely innocuous and without any malicious or negative intent…but if there’s one thing that gets the headhunted candidate’s blood to boil, it’s this one! And assuming that everyone in the room (and on the interviewing panel) knows that the candidate has, in fact, been approached by an executive search firm (yours truly), this would also seem understandably annoying.

So here’s the thing – companies spend LOTS of money, time and effort trying to woo top people to their organisations. They strategise, they plan, they commit the time of their executive team to the interview process, they utilize the services of the best headhunters around to bring the best talent to them. And then ‘stuff’ happens in the interviewing process that turns the candidates from interested to off!

Of course, savvy companies have the interview process so waxed that headhunted candidates can’t wait to sign on the dotted line.

Is the executive bonus system botched?  

The executive bonus has become a somewhat controversial topic in recent years and, in some countries, even the rallying cry for those wanting to apportion blame for the causes of the Global Financial Crisis. Perhaps it is no coincidence that 2007, the year the economy began its decline, was a record year for executive bonuses.

However it is not just the ‘Wall Street investment banker’ who is the recipient of remuneration outside the traditional salary payments. Most executives today receive some form of bonus remuneration as part of their total compensation. Often it includes both a cash payout and a substantial stock award.

shutterstock_149304473The original objective of the bonus system was as a means of incentivizing performance by motivating excellence in terms of employee output. However, increasingly bonuses are associated with motivating other than excellence – the reward itself has become the motivation.

At best many would argue that bonuses seem to be delivered merely for ‘turning up’ rather than for delivering excellence. A great example is the many top executives who were fired for lack of performance that were compensated with enormous golden parachutes, the popular exit “bonus”  for having failed. At worst they can actually incentivize ‘selfish’ behaviour which may be contrary to the long term best interests of the organisation or its stakeholders. Generally designed to reward quarterly performance it actually removes the incentive to perform well in the long term, thereby having a decidedly negative impact on shareholders.

In the hunt for the best and brightest, many organisations have convinced themselves that high bonuses are necessary to attract the best talent, despite the fact that contemporary research does not necessarily support this view.

While we are not advocating the removal of bonuses, indeed this would be extremely difficult given how they appear to have permeated the executive mindset, nevertheless there are a number of ways suggested to improve their effectiveness:

  1. Bonuses are only effective in incentivizing excellence for individuals who have direct control over their own performance – ie: external factors should be limited.
  2. Bonuses should always be discretionary; a culture of automatic bonuses negates their effectiveness. An ‘automatic bonus’ is a camouflaged additional salary or fixed compensation, not an incentive!
  3. Bonuses should be associated with long term collaborative behaviour and thinking – which is much more in the organisation’s interests rather than short term individualism. One way to ensure that is to award bonuses with the stipulation that they be used to purchase company shares. That way the executives interests are better aligned with the shareholders.
  4. The allocation system should be reflective of differences between employees in terms of their performance.  Differences in skills and abilities should be reflected in performance outcomes. If the organisation is not prepared to do this it should not pay bonuses.
  5. A bonus system must be both objective and subjective. It should use an objective criteria to measure outcomes and performance and it should do so on the basis of both short term and long term performance to ensure the future health of the company as well. It should also be a subjective system which looks at how the outcomes were achieved. This will ensure that the way people achieve results will not be ignored, ensuring unethical behaviour is not motivated.
  6. Finally and most importantly, but surprisingly often least recognized, is the importance of the bonus system being clear, transparent and understood by all.